SBB fails to reach core goals for 2021

SBB fails to reach core goals for 2021

A new investigation by the Tages-Anzeiger has shown how Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has missed key targets on cleanliness, disabled access and access to the internet. SBB has responded by saying they have achieved some successes throughout the year, regarding punctuality and investments in barrier-free rail access.

Cleanliness a key issue for SBB

The report was made after freedom of information requests were submitted to SBB and the Federal Office of Transport (BAV). Writing to his staff, the Director of the BAV, Peter Füglistaler, said, "Safety, punctuality and reliability - the indisputable requirements for attractive public transport - must become a matter of course again."

In regard to cleanliness, SBB used to use customer reviews to determine how clean each rail service was, aiming for a score of 93 / 100. Unfortunately, this score has “developed in a negative direction in recent years and reached a low of 87.9 points in March 2018," said SBB spokesperson Sabrina Schellenberg.

From 2019, trains were cleaned based on expected occupancy on certain services, such as rush-hour trains and nighttime services. Since then, cleanliness on trains in Switzerland has improved, but the goal of 93 points is still far away.

Punctuality remains an issue for SBB

Punctuality was seen as a mixed bag. SBB’s target of 90,5 percent of all trains running with less than three minutes delay was achieved by the end of 2020, with 91,2 percent of trains reaching the goal. However, the first 11 months of 2021 saw the figure drop back down to 90,8 percent, with some long-distance trains only being on schedule 88,1 percent of the time.

SBB responded to this accusation by saying punctuality for 2021 overall remained high. They cite 2021 as an excellent year for punctuality, which was overshadowed by their success in 2020.

SBB lagging behind on disabled access at stations

In 2002, the Swiss government agreed that all train stations in Switzerland should have disabled access by 2024. By the end of 2020, only 330 of the 800 stations SBB owns had disabled access, meaning this goal is largely out of sight. Of the other 1.000 stations owned by other companies, only half have been converted.

SBB said they were working “flat out” to convert the stations, “albeit with a little delay.” They announced that 521 stations would be “barrier-free” by 2023, with a revised goal for total disabled access by the end of 2028. They also note that around 80 percent of rail passengers already have access to services for the disabled.

Temporary solution to wi-fi on Swiss trains

The final target missed was for internet services. In 2019, SBB announced “free internet access” on all long-distance trains. However, current internet connections have to be done through the mobile app FreeSurf, meaning no internet connection for laptops or tablets, which are essential for entrepreneurs and business travellers.

SBB said they consider the goal of free internet to be “achieved”, but have also called FreeSurf a “temporary solution.” BAV have said that they couldn’t provide any clear information, but noted SBB has until 2029 to fully implement free wi-fi.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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